On To Cusco! – We had booked a flight from Lima to Cusco on Chilean Taca Airlines. One thing we noticed the day before was at the Radisson when you said you needed a taxi they did not call you a cheap taxi – instead they called you an expensive car service. The hour and half vist to the Larco Museum the day before had run $50 as the driver charged $18 to wait for us to come out. Cabs are normally $3-5. So it was with trepidation that we again asked for a taxi to the Lima airport on Sunday. Sure enough, we hopped in a fancy black ride and were charged $85 nuevos soles, which is about $30.
Once at the airport we found our way and boarded the flight to Cusco – there was a school group going along presumably to Machu Picchu and several girls had never flown – they screamed upon take-off and every time the plane dipped. As we neared Cusco, you could see the huge Andes and the pilot came on – with my limited Spanish I still caught “Cusco.. wind.. Arequipa..” wait, where? we were being diverted to Arequipa to refuel and wait for the weather in Cusco to improve. Arequipa really didn’t look like much other than the volcano they have, “El Misty”.
Once we finally made it to Cusco, three hours late, we searched for the hotel driver who was supposed to pick us up & take us to the hotel “incluido en el precio” Tons of folks with signs but of course as we were 3 hours late no such luck. I searched for someone to call our hotel and found a tour sales girl who said she would call for us. She (perhaps) made a call and then tried to sell us every tour package she had. Finally I said we would just get in a cab and she goes “but you give me money for making the call”. I laughed and walked off – Welcome to Cusco and Tourist Trap Central! I approached a fellow outside with an ID and he said the taxi would be 25 soles, or $8. We would later find out from out hotel it should cost no more than 10 soles, but we were just glad to get to our hotel, the Tierra Viva near the center of town & Plaza de Armas. This was an old house from the 1500’s that Francico Pizarro lived in after conquering Cusco, and boy did I have crazy dreams there! maybe it was the coca leaf tea I drank.
Cusco is in a bowl on a high plateau at 11,000 feet. Even with the Dymox meds it felt as if someone was sitting on your chest, and even a few steps were tough and laborious. That said, we hiked even higher to a place called Saqsy Waman (sounds like Sexy Woman) which was interesting. Shopping in the markets was fun at first, but after awhile I got tired of haggling with the vendors. We got small alpacas made from alpaca fur, & I got a sweater. David also got his Mom some textiles and a pottery set. Even without haggling it was pretty cheap, the 100% alpaca sweater was $22. I felt sorry for dogs there as they roam homeless and hungry. Even snapping a pic of a baby lamb in the street, some women were hounding me saying “money for picture!” That gets real old real fast. Here are the highlights of Cusco –
Tuesday a.m. we were finally headed for Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu-https://juantana.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/aguas-calientes-and-machu-picchu/